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Day in the life of fifth Beatle
12:00pm Thursday 12th April 2012 in News
PAUL McCartney belting out a rock n’ roll standard leans into John Lennon, who grins manically.
George Harrison strikes a buoyant stage pose with arms outstretched and Roy Young is clearly having the time of his life on the piano.
The black and white photograph, inset, shows The Beatles – fronted by John, Paul, George and Roy – when they were really a hot live act.
That’s right Roy not Ringo – Roy Young from Oxford.
And Roy Young was not making a one-off guest appearance with the Fab Four. He was by then a fixture with The Beatles in Hamburg, adding keyboards and backing vocals to their raw but already compelling sound.
Roy’s performances (more than 300 nights) drew to a close exactly 50 years ago. Soon they would be heading back to England, to Abbey Road studios and... well, you know the rest.
In his Kingston Bagpuize living room with his wife Carol, Roy tells me how he turned down being a Beatle. “I remember coming off stage one night and Brian Epstein said, ‘May I have a word. The four lads asked me to ask if you would be interested in going back to England and join them to get a record contract.’ “I told him it was an incredible offer but I’d have to think about it. If I had been smart enough there is no doubt what I would have done.”
“Yes it could have been the biggest move of my life. I became so sick of being asked how I felt about walking away that I had to come up with an answer. I say, ‘Well every night before I go to bed, I go into the bathroom and hit my head on the wall 10 times.
“Paul and John both loved my voice. I was then known as the English Little Richard. They used to watch me on television and my show.”
Roy was evacuated to Oxford from London at the start of the war and played the piano from the age of eight. After leaving South Oxford School in St Aldate’s he performed at the Carpenters Arms in Cowley. His mother had been a well-known pub pianist.
After serving in the Merchant Navy he auditioned for the new pop show Oh Boy, later touring with Cliff Richard.
He recalls his taxi pulling up outside the Top Ten Club. “John lifted me up off the ground, then Paul picked me up. He said: ‘I’m Paul McCartney and we’re called The Beatles. We’ve finished playing here but when we heard you were coming we wanted to stay for the opening night.’”
They later took him to a coffee bar to give him a briefing on Hamburg, where musicians survived on a diet of pills. Later with Tony Sheridan and Ringo Starr he formed Beat Brothers, Top Ten Club’s house band.
Tomorrow night, he will be headlining a concert in Hamburg to mark the 50th anniversary of the Star Club.
Back in England, Roy had a hit with a Lennon-McCartney song Got to Get You Into My Life, after joining Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers.
Young fans include David Bowie, who asked the boogie-woogie man to join him on the album Low. Later he joined Bowie’s side-kick Mick Ronson and Ian Hunter, of Mott the Hoople fame, on an American tour. “Paul rang out of the blue and asked if I would go down and teach Linda to play keyboards. I told him I would have loved to, but I was going to America.”
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